Thursday, February 29, 2024

Trading combat boots for ski boots

Staff Writer | February 6, 2024 1:05 AM

KELLOGG — In a departure from their usual aerial adventures, Air Force pilots Kyle Domfort and Nick Boonstra took the gondola to Silver Mountain Resort to reach the higher elevation at the mountain’s summit. 

The two, along with about 400 others, traveled from Fairchild Air Force Base to participate in the base’s Snowfest. Crews from Fairchild and their families took part in tubing, skiing and snowboarding, along with the water park activities for the less snow-inclined.

Domfort, originally from Florida, returned from a quick ski weekend in Park City, Utah, just in time for the event. His friend works for an airline and linked him up with the tickets.

“I flew out Saturday, and it was just 24 hours of flying and skiing,” Domfort said. 

The extra practice made him more confident in conditions he might encounter at the top of Silver Mountain.

Minnesota-born Boonstra is comfortable on a snowboard, but has only been skiing once before, so he was planning to split the day between the two, skiing until he got tired and then switching to his snowboard. He was wrestling with all the gear — a person-sized bag to carry the ski equipment he had borrowed from his wife, in addition to his snowboard.

“I want to learn now because it can be hard to get into it as you get older. I can go for two hours before my legs start pizza-ing,” Boonstra said, referring to the look of ski tips running into each other, forming a pizza-slice shape instead of the desired parallel configuration.

Ryan Whitaker, 92nd Force Support Squadron commander, said the day was meant to shore up relationships as a crew and within individual family units. Fairchild leaders dreamed up the idea six years ago as a way to break up the monotony of winter and spend time together bonding in a different setting.

“We have a very specific combat mission for wartime environments and in times like this, we’re allowed to trade in our combat boots for ski boots so we can have a little bit of fellowship and community support on the top of the mountain and have fun with each other, because we are stressed, we are working at a high operational tempo,” Whitaker said.

Having retired his snowboard after breaking three ribs and his tailbone in a previous accident, Whitaker stuck to the safety of skis during the festivities.

Though the event was initially held at 49 Degrees North Ski Area in Chewelah, Wash., the move to the Silver Valley for the annual winter recreation event created a helpful partnership, allowing them to offer discounted tickets for airmen and their families, Whitaker said. 

Public affairs specialist Clare Werner grew up in the South and hasn't had much experience with snow, but she hoped her skateboarding and rollerblading skills would help as she tried snowboarding for the first time.

“I’ve never been able to do anything like this so it’s cool that it was so close. I’m actually really excited,” Werner said.

As the unit cohesion coordinator, whether it’s on base or at events like Snowfest, John Smith was focused on keeping morale high among the teams he coordinates. 

“It breaks up the monotony of winter a little bit. Our biggest hope is that they have a time to relax and get away from the job and the mission a little bit. Our wing commander declares this an alternate duty location, so that’s good both for the active duty and the civilian employees so they can either be at work or be up on the mountain,” Smith said.

    The snow was falling fast on the mountain as Matt Marche coached Vanessa Marche on snowboarding down the mountain. Vanessa works in the legal department and Matt works on weather forecasting at Fairchild Air Force Base.
    Nick Boonstra looks over his shoulder for Kyle Domfort as they go to make their first trek down the ski slopes at Silver Mountain Resort. The two are pilots for Fairchild Air Force Base.

    Jaden Satter steps into his rented gear during the Fairchild Air Force Base's Snowfest event at Silver Mountain Resort. "It was fun, I fell about 18 times," Satter said after his first snowboarding run down the slope.
    Janela Nunsinge snaps her helmet into place before snowboarding down the slopes at Silver Mountain Resort. She works on the supply team at Fairchild Air Force Base.

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